Spooky, Scary or Silly: What’s Your Halloween Scene?
By Leslie Wolf Branscomb
So you’re sitting around debating what to do for Halloween, when you decide you’d like to be chased by chainsaw-wielding creeps through a strobe-lit room festooned with what may or may not be the carcasses of sheep hanging from the ceiling. Well then, The Haunted Trail in Balboa Park is definitely for you.
Perhaps something from the traumatic-childhood-nightmare-involving-clowns school of thought? If you enjoy having grotesque clowns leer at you at disturbingly close range, then by all means head for the Carnival of Carnage, a maze that’s an optional part of The Haunted Trail. Whatever you do, if you meet an overly-friendly clown called Bubbles, do NOT tell him your name.
How about a genuine haunting that doesn’t wait until October to make headlines? As a lifelong San Diegan, I’ve been to the Whaley House in Old Town more times than I can count. I had heard the haunting stories many times, yet never saw or experienced anything out of the ordinary, so I really didn’t believe it.
Then there was the Fourth of July visit two years ago where we watched the chandelier in the first-floor courtroom of the old house begin to swing back and forth like a pendulum. But it didn’t stop swinging, as it would if it was accidentally struck by someone (someone very tall at that). We looked outside: no second story above that room, where footfalls above might have rocked the ceiling. We checked the windows — no breeze, since the windows were sealed shut (we were told later that was because police were sick of responding to false burglar alarms at the Whaley home, which occurred regularly when employees arrived in the morning to find all the windows they’d locked the night before wide open). There was no person standing nearby, no attic above, no mechanism we could detect. Yet that chandelier kept swinging. We pointed it out to a costumed docent leading tourists through the house and he shrugged. “It does that sometimes,” he said. After 20 minutes of watching the chandelier swing, we’d seen enough and left. I guess ghosts have more patience than we do.
If you’d like to check out the chandelier for yourself, the Whaley House is open extended hours through October, with some special late-night events as well. It is but one of many places in Uptown, Downtown and Old Town to get your Halloween mood in gear:
– The Whaley House, 2476 San Diego Ave., Old Town. Hours: Thurs. Oct. 19, Fri. Oct. 23, Sat. Oct. 24 and Fri. Oct. 30, 10 a.m.-midnight; Mon. Oct. 26, Tues. Oct. 27, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.; Wed. Oct. 28, 5 pm..-10 p.m.; and Sat. Oct. 31, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Daytime admission is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors age 55-plus, $4 for children age 3-12, and free for 2 and under. Evening admission, from 5 p.m.-midnight, is $10 for adults, $5 for children.
Guided oil lamp tours of the Whaley House will take place from 10:30-11:30 p.m. on Mon. Oct. 26, Tues. Oct. 27 and Wed. Oct. 28. The cost is $25 per person; attendance is limited to 20, so advance ticket purchase is strongly recommended. San Diego Ghost Hunters will conduct middle-of-the-night paranormal investigations of the Whaley House from 12:30 a.m.-2 a.m. on Fri. Oct. 16, Fri. Oct. 23 and Sat. Oct. 24. The cost is $50. Attendance is limited to 20; advance ticket purchase is recommended.
On Halloween the Whaley House will be open from 5 pm.-midnight, with period music and historic lighting, and tales of paranormal encounters. $15 per person.
For ticket purchase or more information on all Whaley House events, go to www.whaleyhouse.org.
– The Haunted Trail in Balboa Park is open nightly through Oct. 31, except for Mon. Oct. 19 and Tues. Oct. 20. Hours are 7 p.m.-midnight Fridays and Saturdays, 7-11 p.m. Sun.-Thurs.; cost is $14.99. Just east of Sixth Avenue and Juniper Street. www.hauntedhotel.com. Not recommended for children under 10.
– The Haunted Hotel takes place at 424 Market St. in the Gaslamp, through Oct. 31., except Mon. Oct. 19 and Tues. Oct. 20. Hours are 6 p.m.-1 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 7-11 p.m. Sun-Thurs.; cost is $14.99 or $24.99 for a Fast Pass to the front of the line. www.hauntedhotel.com. Not recommended for children under 10.
– Nightmare on Normal will run from 6-10 p.m. Sat. Oct. 31 on Normal Street between Lincoln and Blaine avenues. Come see how Hillcrest celebrates Halloween at the fundraiser for The Center. Dance to a DJ and participate in a costume contest led by the Outrageous Emcee Nicole, with a first place prize of $1,000 cash. Cost is $5, age 21 and up. www.thecentersd.org/nightmare.php.
– Hillcrest Youth Center’s Halloween Celebration takes place Fri. Oct. 30 from 6-10 p.m., for ages 14-20, at 3777 Fourth Ave., Hillcrest. Featuring performances, food, candy, contests and “ghoulish mayhem.” For more information, contact Leanna Corpus at email@example.com or call (619) 497-2920.
– Come in costume to the Hillcrest Farmers Market on Sun. Oct. 25, to paint and decorate your own pumpkin. In addition to the regular market products available every week, vendors will also distribute “ghoulish goodies” to trick-or-treaters, beginning at 10 a.m. The market is held in the Department of Motor Vehicles parking lot on Lincoln Street, between Cleveland Avenue and Normal Street. For more information, call (619) 299-3330 or visit www.fabuloushillcrest.com.
– Fiesta de Reyes Halloween Happenings, 4133 Taylor St. in Old Town State Historic Park, offers free fun for kids. On Fri. Oct. 30 watch the movie “Beetlejuice” under the stars at 8 p.m.; Sat. Oct. 31 go trick-or-treating at the shops in Old Town from 4-6:30 pm., then at 8 p.m. hear story-telling about the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, behind Seeley Stables. For more information call (619) 297-3100.
– The Maritime Museum of San Diego offers “Haunted Tales of the Ship” — a lantern-led tour of the Star of India, with scary stories, from 5-8 p.m. Fri. Oct. 30 and Sat. Oct. 31. Cost is $8-14. The Maritime Museum will also hold a Halloween carnival with food, games and contests, on Sat. Oct. 31 from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Cost is $5-14. Both are located at 1492 North Harbor Drive on the waterfront. For more information call (619) 234-9153.
– On Halloween Family Day in Balboa Park, most museums will open their doors to children age 17 and under for free, with a paid adult admission, on Sat. Oct. 31. Participating museums will offer a variety of hands-on activities, music, performances and special programs. For more information go to www.balboapark.org.
– For the 21-and-over crowd, there’s also the 9th Annual Dos Equis XX Monster Bash in the Gaslamp Quarter on Sat. Oct. 31, from 6 p.m.-midnight, at Seventh Avenue between Market and J streets, and on Island Avenue between Sixth and Eighth avenues. Featuring DJs, go-go dancers and an outrageous costume contest with a $3,000 cash prize for best costume. Cost: $25 in advance and $30 at the door. For more information call (619) 233-5008 or visit www.sandiegomonsterbash.com.